LIONS SCHEME IS A ROAR­ING SUC­CESS

Young cubs ex­celling by com­bin­ing train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion

The Football League Paper - - ADVERTORIAL - By Matt Bishop

LAST sea­son, Mill­wall came heart­break­ingly close to reach­ing the Cham­pi­onship, but fell at the fi­nal hur­dle as Barns­ley de­nied them pro­mo­tion in the League One play-off fi­nal at Wem­b­ley. For many clubs, that would have been hard to come back from.

How­ever, at The Den they do things dif­fer­ently. In­stead of re­main­ing down and dis­traught by the events that oc­curred un­der the fa­mous arch, they’ve bounced back and Neil Har­ris’ men are on the brink of se­cur­ing a top-six spot again, and could be back in the sec­ond tier next sea­son.

Off the pitch, the mantra is very much the same. While the first team looks to have a bright fu­ture, so does Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust in part­ner­ship with SCL ed­u­ca­tion group as they go from strength to strength to help young peo­ple achieve their dreams.

For two aca­demic years, Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust and SCL have been work­ing to­gether to pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme for young play­ers along­side their foot­balling ca­reers, giv­ing them a help­ing hand as they aim for suc­cess­ful fu­tures – whether that’s as a pro­fes­sional player, or down another path­way.

Bal­ance

Speak­ing to Fred­die Ruby, Ed­u­ca­tion and Em­ploy­a­bil­ity co-or­di­na­tor at Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust, said: “The hook of the Mill­wall badge, the good work the trust has al­ready done in the com­mu­nity and the bril­liant sup­port and knowl­edge of SCL to­gether com­bined has worked out re­ally well.

“Our CEO Steve Brad­shaw and Steve Franks (Part­ner­ship Direc­tor and SCL co-founder) have put to­gether a pro­gramme whereby we can work with young peo­ple look­ing for a ca­reer in sports, pro­vided down dif­fer­ent path­ways, what­ever they may be.

“If a young per­son wanted to go down the route of higher ed­u­ca­tion, they could ac­cess that with us, if they wanted a path­way into an ap­pren­tice­ship or em­ploy­ment they could ac­cess that, and also po­ten­tially fur­ther their ca­reer in foot­ball.”

Ruby, Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust and SCL are all pas­sion­ate about pro­vid­ing young peo­ple with the great­est chance to suc­ceed. SCL is one of the lead­ing ed­u­ca­tion providers through sport, and along­side the Lions, they’re pro­vid­ing 16-18 year olds with an ed­u­ca­tion as well as the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a star.

“It’s ab­so­lutely mas­sive to get the bal­ance right be­tween foot­ball and ed­u­ca­tion,” said Ruby. “We are al­ways firm be­liev­ers in giv­ing young peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed, what­ever their goal, and we’re not there to put the fire out on their as­pi­ra­tions.

“If they’ve got as­pi­ra­tions to reach the high­est level then good on them, that’s a fan­tas­tic men­tal­ity to have and we will help them all we can.

“But, al­ter­na­tively, we’ll bring it to them that they have to think about the other con­sid­er­a­tions, they have to think about a con­tin­gency and we’ll of­fer them a be­spoke ed­u­ca­tion with SCL that is based around sport and what they love in or­der to give them another op­tion.

“We are in­clu­sive about who we ac­cept on our pro­gramme. A lot of peo­ple have this per­cep­tion that they have to be the great­est foot­baller to go on the pro­gramme but they don’t.

“You don’t have to be an Academy player, you don’t have to be a semi-pro­fes­sional or fu­ture pro­fes­sional, what you have to be is will­ing and keen to work hard and fol­low a ca­reer path in sport, and we’ll help you as best we can.”

In­spi­ra­tion

Ki­ran Din­gri, a tu­tor who was re­cently awarded the quar­terly in­spi­ra­tional award as part of SCL’s ex­cel­lence awards and works within Mill­wall’s pro­gramme, agrees, say­ing: “The Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust Academy pro­vides a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for 16-18 year olds to com­bine full-time ed­u­ca­tion with their pas­sion of foot­ball and sport.

“Many of the stu­dents who at­tend the pro­gramme come from a va­ri­ety of back­grounds and have over­come a num­ber of dif­fer­ent bar­ri­ers to ex­cel both in the class­room and on the foot­ball pitch.”

But, de­spite the ex­cel­lent work Mill­wall and SCL are do­ing within the pro­gramme to pro­vide young play­ers with ev­ery chance to suc­ceed on the pitch, the ed­u­ca­tion is of course vi­tal.

In a foot­balling world that can be so cruel and un­for­giv­ing, not ev­ery young player who dreams of reach­ing the top will do so – but that’s ex­actly why the op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by SCL and Ruby at Mill­wall are so price­less.

SCL’s Franks said: “Our Academy pro­gramme uses the power of foot­ball as a tool to mo­ti­vate and en­cour­age young peo­ple to stay in ed­u­ca­tion while keep­ing one eye on the dream of pro­gress­ing through the ranks to the first team or other op­por­tu­ni­ties in the sport­ing sec­tor.”

The ed­u­ca­tion be­ing pro­vided at Mill­wall Com­mu­nity Trust varies from BTECs to VRQs, and de­pends on the GCSE grades of the per­son in­volved. One player who did knuckle down, com­pleted a course at the Trust and con­tin­ued a ca­reer in foot­ball was Ella Ruther­ford.

The 17-year-old, who plays for Mill­wall’s women’s team, the Lionesses, and Eng­land Women’s U17, is a prime ex­am­ple of the suc­cess SCL and the Trust are hav­ing.

Ruby said: “She’s a fe­male who has come through the pro­gramme to play for the first team of the Lionesses, starts ev­ery week, has not long turned 17 and has be­come one of their most im­por­tant play­ers. She’s a real suc­cess story – and has be­come al­most an in­spi­ra­tion.”

By the sounds of it, there could be quite a few more suc­cess sto­ries to come.

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